Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Southgate Plaza Shopping Center

Southgate Shopping Center
Postcard of Southgate Plaza Shopping Center, Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Photo by Madelyn Hendry.
Published by Marquart Photo Service, Fort Wayne, Indiana.

If you'd like to see a gigantic view of this picture, just click on it and it will take you to a much larger version on flickr.

There's no date associated to this postcard, but guessing by the cars pictured, it was sometime in the early 60's (although I am not a big car follower - I'm just wildly guessing here and I'll wait for one of you car buffs to correct me!).

I haven’t been to Southgate Shopping Plaza in years. By the time I was born, Penney’s had moved to Southtown Mall and of course, we never shopped at Kroger’s because the gigantic Scott’s shopping experience was on the other side of the road.

If and when we stopped in here, it was to visit the paint store (I think Ream Steckbeck Paint Co.). I also remember a shoe store too but we always walked by it without actually purchasing anything.

The Southgate Plaza, north of Pettit Avenue and east of Calhoun Street was opened April 18, 1955. It contained 40 store units at the outset on an area of 40 acres. Developed by the American Shopping Centers, Inc., it was the city’s first large center and provided parking for 2,500 cars. Major stores included Stillman’s, J.C. Penney, F.W. Woolworth, W.T. Grant, The People’s Trust Bank, Richman Brothers, Walgreen Drug Stores, and Kroger Supermarket.

Twentieth Century History of Fort Wayne, John Ankenbruck (1975) - Page 499

So I guess the parking was a big deal back then but for me - as a little kid - my biggest memory is how lost and disoriented I felt by the layout of the place. I was so used to shopping with my grandparents downtown or at Southtown Mall and this particular arrangement was confusing and to tell you the truth - lacked "eye candy".

Downtown, there was hustle and bustle and a connected sense of community. At Southtown Mall, once you stepped inside, it was like you were in another mini-city. Southgate was just a bunch of connected 'things' to me and an after thought to a Saturday shopping/outing.


PMX said...

I have great memories of Southgate in the late 60's - early 70's. Every Friday after school, Mom would load my sisters and I on the city bus to go to Kroger and do our week's worth of shopping. Then Dad would pick us up on his way home from work (we'd make it home just in time for the Brady Bunch!) My sisters and I would kill time at the stores, like House of Fabrics and Spot in the Center (hippy stuff!), buying navity pieces and turtles at Woolworth's, looking at the wall of artwork for sale at Grants and also buying a Bebe parrot there in the basement, looking at Monkee and Beatles hand puppets at Stillman's (and trying on clogs, then the new rage!), and buying marked down record albums at Penney's when it was moving to Southtown. We hung out downtown on the weekends and school holidays but Southgate was definitely our hangout those Friday nights.

Anonymous said...

The Spot In The Center...LOL! Now I'm trippin' out! I forgot about that place. The Kroger Store in the postcard is now a video rental store. To the left of it is now a Big Lots, where I think the W.T. Grant used to be.

For a while, the Big Lots was at the opposite end of the plaza, which is now an A.J. Wright store. Prior to that it was the Stillman's, and before that it was the Grand Leader store. Kroger pretty much moved into the center of the place, taking over a couple of storefronts including where J.C. Penney was.

There were a few small places on the back side of one wing of the place. One of these was a barbershop, listed as Hartnett's in the 1962 phone book, where I used to get crewcuts and pineapples, and my older brother would get a flattop. I still run into one of the barbers that used to work there from time to time.

There was also a family restaurant there at one time called PanDee's, then later DanDee's. That was the first place I remember getting chocolate cokes and lime phosphates and the waitresses used to say things like "Shoot a pair and make 'em redheads!" and "Put legs on it!" And on the northeast corner of the parking lot was a service station, Munro's Standard I believe.


Bob G. said...

The picture apepars to be from the early-mid 1960s (based on the vehicles on the lots).

I didn't know you USED to have a WOOLWORTHS AND a W.T. Grants.

Back then, Southgate looked very similar to a shopping center we had back in philly, along Harbison Ave, near Roosevelt Blvd.
The layout is pretty close...maybe it was the same developer?

Be interesting to find out.

Today, sadly, Southgate is a "dollar-haven" venue.
The Radio Shack moved there from the K-Mart plaza off of S. Anthony due to crime.

Used to have a LARGE pet store there too, right next to where Wrights sits now. Really cool Macaw in there.
At least the CHINA BUFFET is there (different owners), and still has pretty good food. The "clientele" are quite ANOTHER story.
We all know the BMV closed there.

Been to the (new, revamped) Krogers ONCE...that as enough to make me shop ELSEWHERE...even if it means returning to WAYNEDALE!

Sounds like it USED to be a really happening times HAVE changed (and not necessarliy for the better).

Great post and snapshot.


sandy said...

I remember going to a drugstore or it might have been Woolworth's to their foundtain and we would get cherry phosphates.

Anonymous said...

Yup, there was a Ream-Steckbeck Paint Co. store there (over to the left of the postcard). I worked at R-S into the 1990s and no one could figure out why we still had a location there. It was pretty dead towards the end. R-S finally closed the Southgate store about six years ago.

Dave said...

These strip malls were so commonplace, but it's amazing how often they were the subject of postcards in those days! It's neat to see one like this in its prime. I agree with your assessment of this type of strip center center compared to the feeling of a mall or of an older downtown shopping area.

The Kroger looks to be one of the more interesting variations of the day, with the funky pylon. Here's a close up example:

John Good said...

During my tenure with Big Lots stores, I worked in that location as an asst mgr in the late 1980's. I recalled visiting the Grand Leader store that once occupied the space that I was now working in when I was just a child. The stairwells to the lower level were still there, but walled off. Later, the FWPD operated a precinct out of that basement area.

The Fix-It Mart said...

I just found your blog when searching google for "Southgate Fort Wayne". I just opened a new business here at Southgate, and can look out my store window to see exactly where this photo was taken. I am not a native of Fort Wayne so reading everyones comments about their memories of Southgate helps give me some back story. I've only been in Fort Wayne for less than 5 years so all of you are much more familiar with the area than I am.

Anyways- just wanted to say thanks for posting that picture, its really neat to be sitting here gazing at the current store fronts, comparing them to the old scene.

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Danny Riddell said...

Kristina, this picture sure is very familiar to me. My parents and I used to drive around this area when I was just a kid. There are a couple of shops there that my parents visit every now and then.

In my current residence in Florida, commercial office spaces are made to be a lot more attractive than just a strip of shops. Shopping in Destin, Florida is like visiting a small town where all your favorite shops can be found. Certainly, the shopping experience have changes across time.

Thanks for sharing!

HoosierMike said...

There were 4 shoe stores when Southgate first opened--Bakers, Kinney, Thom McAn & Kaye's. There was both a Woolworth, next to the 20,000 sq ft Kroger and a W T Grant (32,000 sq ft) store on the opposite side of the center. In the middle was a 2 floor JC Penney with a penthouse for store offices--42,000 sq ft. Grand Leader built a department store at the far end of the east wing after the center opened. It had a 1st floor and lower level and contained nearly 50,000 square feet. Overall, the center contained over 250,000 square feet! Other specialty stores included: Walgreens, Bon Ton Bakery, Hallmark House, Ream-Steckbeck Paints, Schwartz Babyland, Richman Brothers, Trulock Menswear, Moore's Automotive, F-M Liquors, Peoples Trust Bank, Fanny Farmer Candies, Three Sisters, and Smart Hat Shop.